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Spotlight on the Stars: Keira Knightley

For this week’s new spotlight piece, I wanted to cite an A-lister who doesn’t quite get the credit that she deserves. That lovely lady is none other than Keira Knightley, an Academy Award nominated actress mostly known for her period piece work but capable of far more than that. In fact, she proved that earlier this year, as I’ll mention below. Regardless, she’s very talented and someone still on the upswing of her career, so she made perfect sense as the latest honoree in this series. As such, the spotlight is now shining on her today.

Knightley got her start with some British television and a tiny part in the film Innocent Lies, but the first place you’d likely have seen her is in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, where she had a small but noticeable part. There was a bit more TV and such still to come, but Knightley became a name people began talking about when she co-starred in Bend it Like Beckham. That part really launched her career, leading to slightly bigger roles and soon, a huge part in a top tier blockbuster.

She became something of an A-lister early on when she was in the smash hit epic Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Around the same time, she also charmed audiences as part of the ensemble of the now classic romantic comedy Love Actually. There was also a turn in the indie thriller The Jacket and the large scale misfire that was King Arthur, but the combination of a huge swashbuckling action adventure and the rom com to end all rom coms really made her a star. Knightley was officially a big name, which would lead to her getting a part she could really sink her teeth into. When that came along, she got into period costumes again (something she’d do from time to time in her career) and knocked the role out of the park.

Knightley would receive the biggest praise of her career to date (along with an Oscar nomination for Best Actress) with the adaptation of Pride & Prejudice that she starred in. To some the definitive version of this timeless tale, mainly due to the work that Knightley turns in. She’s terrific here, giving what many consider to be the crowning achievement of her career so far. At the very least, voters considered her worthy of the nomination that she received.

Since then, Knightley has starred in the biopic Domino, come close to another period piece nomination with Atonement, and returned for two Pirates sequels, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest as well as Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. She’s also been in films like Anna Karenina, A Dangerous Method, The Duchess, The Edge of Love, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Laggies (from last month, actually), Last Night. London Boulevard, Never Let Me Go, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, and Silk. She’s been in period garb for some of these, come close to a second Academy Award citation for others, but more importantly…she’s been solid and interesting in every single one.

Earlier this year, she gave one of her very best performances ever in the musical dramedy Begin Again. I’m a big fan of this film, which I actually believe contains Knightley’s best performance to date (high praise, I know). She shows off some tremendous singing chops, as well as charming me to a huge degree with her acting. The movie also showed just how effective she can be in a modern tale without her native accent. It’s incredibly impressive.

This week, she delivers another top notch performance in the big time Oscar player The Imitation Game. She’s almost assuredly going to receive her second Academy Award nomination, this time in the Best Supporting Actress field. She’s slightly in the shadow of co-star Benedict Cumberbatch, but she’s still excellent in a film that’s going to be quite popular during the awards season. It’s a success, and certainly due in part to her work here.

Overall, Knightley is a rather talented A-lister who often appears in costume dramas but has a knack for modern day romance as well. In the next few years, she’ll be up for awards attention again with Everest, as well as potentially other interesting projects that will come off of the basis of The Imitation Game’s success (as well as potentially returning at some point to the Pirates franchise). No matter how you slice it, Knightley is a top tier actress who is going to please us with her work for many years to come, and I’m thrilled that that’s the case. If you’re looking to enjoy her work this week, pick up Begin Again on Blu-Ray or DVD and then check out The Imitation Game in theaters.

Stay tuned for another look at an A-lister next week!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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